Paws for Thought

Love is in the Air

“Birds do it, bees do it

Even educated fleas do it,

Let’s do it,

Let’s fall in love.”

Ah spring! The pheasants are strutting their stuff, bees are bringing in pollen, and soon cats will be caterwauling and spraying. The sounds and smells of reasons to spay and neuter our pets.

Cats, in particular, are influenced by our increasing length of daylight. They are designed to give birth during warm months and generally are reproductively inactive while the days are short, beginning their hormonal cycle annually when they perceive days are getting longer.

Cycling (not associated with MICA) begins when the female cat has reached 80 percent of her adult size at about 4-5 months. Indoor cats are sheltered from light cycles of sun and may not cycle as frequently as their outdoor counterparts.

A heat cycle consists of pro-estrus and estrus. In pro-estrus, the estrogen levels increase and the female becomes a flirt – she is extra affectionate, rubbing her head, sticking her rump in the air, urine marking, and vocalizing loudly and frequently. This can last as short as 12 hours or as long as two days. In estrus, she becomes receptive to a male and this same behaviour may last as long as seven days. If she is not bred, there is an 8-10 day break before the yowling, rubbing, and marking begins again, and can go on all spring, summer, and into early fall until a cat is bred, spayed, or perceives “winter is coming”.  If bred, one can expect kittens in 64-66 days.

For our male intact toms, their mating behaviours include roaming, fighting, and marking with exceptionally strong potent smelling urine. With increased roaming comes increased outdoor lifestyle risks—cars, dogs, bite wounds, and cat viral infections. Mature toms are also built for battle, and develop a muscular body, tough thick skin, and big round cheeky jowls. 

Our canine counterparts are not as influenced by daylight length. Females come into first heat generally around 6-8 months, and thereafter continue to cycle every 6-8 months. Their heat cycle, lasting on average three weeks, is marked by a swollen vulva, bloody vaginal discharge, and a notable paparazzi-like swarm of interested male dogs. If they become pregnant, puppies will be expected to arrive in 63 days.

So why and when to spay or neuter? Cats, when?  It’s easy, at puberty: 5-6 months of age. Why? Also easy: to create a well-adapted household citizen that will live longer and cut down on the pet overpopulation numbers game (one queen can produce between 6-24 kittens per year).

Dogs, the why is straightforward. Spaying a female will not only prevent the messy heat cycle but also reduce mammary cancer chances and serious uterine infections. Neutering a male will reduce prostate gland infections and enlargements, tumours of the anus and testicles, and reduce behaviours such as inter male fights, urine marking, mounting (ie. your leg!), and roaming.

The when is not as straight forward. For small breeds, puberty (5-6 months) is generally accepted. For large/giant breeds, there has recently been discussion to wait until after their bone growth has finished, approximately 1.5 years. However, this is definitely a discussion to be had with your vet as delays in spaying in particular can lead to other issues (ie. the mammary tumour concern).

To end on a light note (it is spring after all), some vet humour to contemplate. First, the only balls your dog needs are the ones he fetches. And finally, what do you get when you cross a bulldog with a shih tzu? Nothing, they’re both fixed! A sunny, warm spring to you all!